[Sophi Kravitz] Joins the Hackaday Crew

Please join us in welcoming [Sophi Kravitz] to the Hackaday crew. She is coming on board to crank on the 2015 Hackaday Prize. You may remember a post from a few weeks ago when we were in search of a person with a skill set that could only be described as mythical. [Sophi] jumped at the chance and it is immediately clear that she belongs here.

[Sophi] walks the walk, and talks the talk. She’s an EE and has worked with art installations, built props and FX for movies, and tackled jobs that some might consider ‘more serious’ engineering challenges. Her passion for electronics has led her to evangelize education on the subject by working with student programs, and she recently served as a Hacker in Residence with Sparkfun. Her love of the hardware community already has her promoting hacking by immersing herself in Hackerspace culture and organizing events like the Bring a Hack meetup at Maker Faire New York.

We have big plans for the 2015 Hackaday Prize which will be announced soon. In the meantime, anyone attending the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week can meet up with [Sophi] and find out about the plans we’ve made so far. She will be at CES to represent Hackaday along with [Mike Szczys] and [Sarah Petkus]. We’re planning an impromptu meetup for anyone interested. Reply to this Tweet to tell us you’ll be there and we’ll make sure to get you the details when we have them. And of course, if you want to get your hands on some Hackaday stickers track us down during the conference. Check out our CES Twitter list to make more connections.

Christmas Village Spin on the Weasley Clock

Have we seen any Christmas village hacks before? None come to mind and our Google-fu didn’t turn up any either. No matter, even if there were a handful this would rank quite high. [Kyle Anderson] built models of the homes each of his loved-ones inhabit. Each model lights up when its occupant is at home.

This reminds us of the Weasley Clock, itself a popular concept to hack on. The idea is that each family member’s location is shown with a unique clock hand and a set of whimsical locations on the clock face.

The Etherhouse, as [Kyle] calls it, performs a similar action. The WiFi access point in each loved one’s home is monitored for their smart phone. When it is detected, the light for their home model is illuminated. Since each person has their own copy of the village, everyone knows who is home and who is away.

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Ambilight for your Piano (Hero)

That old upright piano still sounds great, and now it can easily have its own special effects. [DangerousTim] added LED strips which change color when he tickles the ivories. The strips are applied along the perimeter of the rear side of the upright causing the light to reflect off of the wall behind the instrument. This is a familiar orientation which is often seen in ambilight clone builds and will surely give you the thrill of Guitar Hero’s brightly changing graphics while you rock the [Jerry Lee Lewis].

Key to this build is the electret microphone and opamp which feed an Arduino. This allows the sound from the piano to be processed in order to affect the color and intensity of the LED strips. These are not addressable, but use a transistor to switch power to the three colors of all pixels simultaneously.

We think there’s room for some clever derivative builds, but we’re still scratching our heads as to how we’d use addressable pixels. Does anyone know a relatively easy way to take the mic input and reliably establish which keys are being played? If so, we can’t wait to see your ambilight-piano-clone build. Don’t forget to tip us off when you finish the hack!

What is this thing called Linux?

It should come as no surprise that we at Hackaday love Linux above all others (that should start a nice little flamewar on the internal email list). If you still haven’t given it a whirl yet, don’t fear. Everyone starts from scratch at some point. With each passing year it becomes more and more likely that knowing something about Linux will eventually benefit every hardware hacker. Take part of your time off in the coming weeks to give it a whirl. First thing’s first, check out this quick guide on what Linux actually is.

Adafruit’s offering is pretty low level, so if you’re the kind that likes to argue “kernel” versus “OS” please keep it to yourself. For us the important distinction pointed out here is microcontroller (Arduino) versus Raspberry Pi. The Pi generally runs one flavor or another of Linux for good reasons, while microcontroller-driven systems tend to run use-specific code (with the exception of projects that leverage Real Time Operating Systems). Of course it extends past pre-fab options, Linux is a popular choice on bare-bones roll-your-own machines.

This is the year of Linux! Ha, we’ve heard that one every year for at least a decade. To us it makes no difference, you should know a bit about each OS out there. What are you waiting for? Read the guide then download (for free!) a CD image of our current favorite Linux flavor.

8-Bit Chip Rocks 16-Bit 44.1kHz Tunes

There’s a special place in our hearts for chip tunes generated with your favorite microcontroller. But why stop there? Full-featured audio is a great challenge and it’s not often we see examples of this caliber. It puts out CD-quality audio using not much more than a microcontroller.

How do you get 16-bit audio out of an 8-bit microcontroller. We’ll give you a hint: two pins are used. Not helping? Here it comes: two 8-bit DACs PWM outputs are used on this chip, the ATmega1284. One is used for the lower eight bits, the other handles the upper. The two are combined using carefully calculated precision resistor values and the results are beyond what you imagine. This is produced at a bitrate of 44077.135, slightly off from the 44100Hz standard but we challenge you audiophiles to tell the difference. The wave files are served from an SD card read by the chip using the Petit-FatFs library.

There are so many great things about this project. First off, following [Wancheng Zhou’s] example will let anyone with even basic microcontroller skills build a digital audio player for an [Andrew Jackson] and a couple of [Washingtons]. Secondly, those with a medium uC skill level will want to take the idea and implement/debug it for themselves. Bringing it home, [Wancheng] shows how to gauge the quality of the audio output using FFT.

If you didn’t figure it out by the time of year, this is yet another example of a Cornell ECE 4760 final project. Shout out to [Bruce Land] for inspiring awesome projects and requiring extensive documentation of the projects which itself promotes deeper understand all around.

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$50k in Components Hit the Hands of Hackaday Prize Semifinalists

We anticipate a cornucopia of hacks from the top fifty 2014 Hackaday Prize entrants based on the recent awarding of the 50 grab bags of electronics. That’s right, the grand prize was out of this world but there were a lot of other rewards worth shooting for. Instead of making hardware choices without the seminifinalists’ input we went with a shopping spree on Mouser.com.

It’s a great idea if we do say so ourselves. However, it turned out not to be as easy as purchasing fifty-grand in gift cards. Did you know that none of the major parts distributors have gift card systems built into their sites? We’re of two minds on this. We’d love to open a birthday card from grannie and pull out some chits that can be traded for chips. But at the same time, it would be a longshot for your non-hacker relatives to even know what sites are our go-to parts emporiums.

Long story short these prizes are themselves a hack. We had a lot of help from the sales crew over at Mouser who abused their account tracking software in order to make these credits work. All fifty of the Hackaday prize semifinalists now have a cool G to spend and we’ll be watching their Hackaday.io accounts for updates as they inevitably use the upcoming holidays to embark on exciting builds.

A big thanks to Supplyframe Inc. for sponsoring these 50 prizes, as well as all others awarded for the 2014 Hackaday Prize. Get those workbenches cleared off and sharpen tin your soldering tips because details about the 2015 Hackaday Prize will start to roll out in just a few weeks. Until then, occupy your time trying to win one of the many prizes offered during our Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.

We’re Hiring a Full-Time Hackaday Prize Mythical Creature

On occasion we advertise jobs for Hackaday but this time around is an exceptionally big deal. The Hackaday Prize was an amazing adventure this year, and we’re already hard at work on the plans for the 2015 Hackaday Prize. To realize our vision for the movement we need someone who will live and breathe THP. We need to find the Hackaday Prize Mythical Creature.

This person will hold in their mind all things Hackaday Prize. The HPMC will gallivant across the land (both digital and real) heralding the message of grass-roots, high-level hardware development. Obviously this involves recruiting highly skilled Hackers, Designers, and Engineers to compete for the prize. But the HPMC will also make sure that the amazing creations competing for the Prize get the widespread recognition they deserve.

There are a lot of nuts and bolts to the job. The HPMC will lead the planning of all live events. The many talents of the Hackaday and Supplyframe crews will be fully and efficiently tapped thanks to the legendary organizational and people skills wielded by the HPMC. Can you see why we’re calling this job candidate a Mythical Creature?

The point is, we are going to accomplish great things in 2015 and beyond. We need the perfect person to make sure it happens smoothly. Mythical Creatures, sharpen your CV’s and apply now.